NORMAN D. BROWN, Editor
Jefferson Davis Gets His Citizenship Back. By Robert Penn Warren.
(Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1980. Pp. 114.
Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, was
a Mississippian transplanted as a child from Kentucky. He came from
the same part of the Bluegrass State, present-day Todd County, as
Robert Penn Warren, and the occasion for this reflective essay by
America's dean of letters was a ceremony honoring Davis after the
restoration of his citizenship by Congress in 1978, eighty-nine years
after his death. Congress had earlier voted to restore citizenship to
General Robert E. Lee, leaving Davis the last Confederate leader in
the limbo of men without a country. During his lifetime Davis refused
to seek a pardon, because, he said, it would be an admission of guilt,
and he felt none.
Warren weaves into his essay recollections of his maternal grand-
father, Gabriel Thomas Penn, a former Confederate cavalryman, who
lived on a remote tobacco farm where the young Warren spent his
summers; an impressionistic outline of Davis's tragic career; anec-
dotes about a feckless poor white handyman always called "Old Jeff
Davis," who was a "walking monument" to the Confederate president
in Warren's home town of Guthrie, years before the great concrete
obelisk near the site of Davis's birth in the community of Fairview
some miles to the north was finished in 1924; and a description of the
citizenship celebration at the monument, May 31-June 3, 1979.
Although he was unpopular in the South at the end of the Civil
War, Davis's two-year imprisonment in Fort Monroe, Virginia (in the
beginning he was briefly shackled), made him, in Warren's words, a
"ritual presence. . . . As a symbol of irrepressible principle, as the
vicarious sufferer for his people, as the image of honor, Davis entered
the hearts of his countrymen, to be called from city to city the eternal
President of the City of the Soul into which the human disorder of
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101208/. Accessed September 22, 2014.